Wrong Direction Farm

Giving Up On Moral High-Groundsmanship

[I wrote this post about four months ago, but I had a hard time pushing the “Publish” button so I wanted to give myself some time for reflection. On re-reading it, I still agree with what I wrote then, even though writing about my rejection of sanctimony hints at its own underlying form of sanctimony.]

On Friday I was doing one of my market deliveries and had the surreal experience of arriving at my afternoon stop to find the parking lot bustling with employees of the world’s most famous (or infamous) purveyor of herbicides and genetically modified crops, all busily working to beautify and renovate a community garden. An organic garden at that! Everywhere I looked I was surrounded by a corporate logo that stands for a set of agricultural ideas I reject as irresponsible and immoral.

I’ll credit Nathan Hill for a quote that took all the steam out of my impulse for outrage. I re-listened to his book The Nix this summer while working on the corral project. Hill has a gift for unsettlingly memorable lines, but this one’s a gem:

“Everyone gets to be offended in their own special way . . . It’s no secret that the great American pastime is no longer baseball. Now it’s sanctimony.”

Nathan Hill, The Nix

I wanted to be indignant and offended and righteous. But I am glad to have had this line rattling around in my head, to realize that people are complex and that each person’s reasons for being in that situation at that moment were beyond my comprehension and well beyond my criticism.

So we talked. And it went well. We had a chance to discuss food, and what we do on our farm, and how we do it. The discussions were good and cordial and just what I’d want them to be.

I’d like to be a person who doesn’t prejudge others by the corporate logos on their T-shirts in the first place. I doubt that I’ll ever be that mature. The impulse to judge is too deep, too instinctive for me to overcome. But I hope I can train myself to quickly substitute kindness in place of sanctimony.

I realize that this multinational company is an enormous organization and that in all probability none of these folks were the ones working in the lab to design the next big agrichemical to destroy plants and soil biology. At the same time I believe the company they work for is guilty of criminal behavior and has participated in and profited from social, political, and environmental corruption. But which of us are guiltless in all our associations, in all the byproducts and consequences and externalities of our lives? And more importantly, why should I be the one keeping score?

Herb bed weeded by the employees

Pig Partners

This is something that has been in the works for years, so we’re glad to have finally put the pieces together to announce it.

Two winters ago we realized that we were at the point where we needed to increase the size of our beef herd, our pig herd, and our chicken flock. And we wanted to add turkeys. But we didn’t have the capital to spend in so many areas, nor were we seeing enough profits to be able to hire helpers to assist with the inevitable increase in workload. We have friends at Cairncrest Farm in West Winfield who were also facing the same decision point.

We decided, based on our land resources, our interests, and our family situations to work cooperatively. We each still have our own cattle herds, but we have been providing Cairncrest with poultry for them to sell, and Cairncrest has been providing us with lamb. As of this month, we are beginning to transition our pork to Cairncrest pasture raised pork.

This arrangement has been helpful to both farms as it has allowed us to pursue our goals while finding a way to focus on fewer things. Diversified farming is great, until it isn’t. In the new arrangement we each have several enterprises, but we’ve been able to back away from the stress of trying to maintain too many different enterprises. It has been apparent on both ends that we’ve been able to make improvements in the care and attention we can give to our farms because of this increased focus.

Loading the last group of pigs off the farm

We miss having the pigs around, and who knows, maybe we’ll have some back here eventually. As you look at our store listing for pork, you’ll see that a few items are marked as coming from Cairncrest Farm. During this winter and spring we’ll exhaust most of our Wrong Direction Farm items and as we do, we’ll transition to Cairncrest Farm.

On the production side, we are very much of a kindred spirit with Cairncrest. If you liked our pork for how it tasted and for how it was produced, we’re confident you’ll be pleased with Cairncrest pork. The pigs are truly pasture raised, getting a significant portion of their nutrition from foraged feed. More info on Cairncrest’s pigs is available here.

We appreciate all of our customers who’ve come along with us over the past nine years as we’ve worked our way through various manifestations of Wrong Direction Farm. We love to farm, but finding the business model that works is difficult. We’re grateful for all our supporters who keep ordering month after month.

April in January

I slipped out the door yesterday with only a light wool jacket over my work clothes. Even then, I wondered if I had over dressed; with temperatures kissing 60, it felt like a late April morning: saturated ground, swollen streams, thawed earth smells, and gamboling cattle.

By the time I had opened the next row of hay bales, rain had begun to fall and a vivid  rainbow had developed.  By the time I made it back to the house through the shower, I was thankful to have the protection of my wool jacket.

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What You Wish For, And Being Careful Thereof

A few days ago I was feeling that restless itch to start working on a new project. I get that way when things are quiet for a few consecutive days. Then within quick succession, fourteen new cattle arrived from the neighbor’s farm, the farm truck lost all its lights due to wiring problems, the tractor’s loader control valve had to be replaced, the family car needed the engine pulled, the oven stopped working, I had to go out plowing snow, the big Christmas rush of orders came in, the aforementioned new cattle broke down their fences, et cetera.

I’m wondering why I ever dared to think I needed to go looking for more things to do. It reminds me of asking Rachel’s grandfather why he started his farm. His deadpan reply, “Well, running my store only kept me busy twelve hours a day, so I needed something else to occupy the rest of my time.”

Engine out. The little Subaru engine was actually pretty easy. It’s the first time for me working on this new-to-us car. I was able to improvise a hoist with a come-along chained to the garage roof trusses. Head gaskets are leaking one one side, valve covers are leaking into the spark plug tubes on the other. I’ll replace all the seals, timing belts, water pump, and the clutch while I’ve got it apart.
Appliance repair is probably easier than car repair, but it is always more disappointing. It seems that cars break because they are used, but appliances seem to break only because they are built as poorly as possible. Can you spot the bad solder connection? After resoldering, the oven’s bake and broil functions work again.
Orders packed and stacked at the FedEx shipping center.

Thanksgiving Deliveries

Note that with Thanksgiving coming up next week, we’ve added an extra Saturday delivery to our schedule. Orders for home delivery this Saturday need to be placed by tomorrow (Thursday the 21st).

We also have a delivery next Tuesday. If you want your turkey delivered on Tuesday, you might be pushing the limits for thawing to be ready for Thanksgiving, especially if you are planning on brining the turkey. Get in touch with me this weekend and we can discuss your options. For customers who want a turkey delivered on Tuesday, we can begin to thaw it in our walk-in cooler and ship it with less ice so it arrives at your house on Tuesday cold but partially defrosted. Give me a call at 518-588-2633 to discuss this option because it requires some pre-planning on our end. Smaller items, like whole turkey breasts can be shipped fully frozen since they don’t require as much time to thaw. All orders for Tuesday delivery must be in to us by Sunday night.

Please note that we won’t have our usual Friday delivery next week because the shipping networks are closed for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Best wishes to all of our customers for an enjoyable Thanksgiving with the people you love. If you take any pictures of your Wrong Direction Farm turkey, please send them our way. We always enjoy seeing what everyone creates with the food we raise.

From My Photo Folder

Just a few pictures from around the farm this October.

Pasture raised chickens
Chickens stutting in the sun on pasture earlier this week.
I’ve been working on replacing the horribly warped exhaust manifold in the truck. The engine needed to be lifted because the passenger side lower exhaust studs were inaccessible. After having done it, next time (if ever there is a next time) I’ll start by raising the engine since that simplified everything else. I didn’t want to jack up the engine mainly because I’ve never done that before. Lesson learned.
This young cat found us way out in the back fields. She followed us home and she obviously is not a feral cat. I guess she must have either become lost or she was dumped somewhere near our farm. She has earned the name “The Annoying Cat” because of how obsessively she seeks our attention.
Grassfed herd of cattle on pasture
Cattle grazing on a misty morning. You can tell by the leaves on the trees that this photo was from two weeks ago. Tree canopies are getting pretty bare now. We have just a few days of stockpiled forage left in the fields. By next week Tuesday or Wednesday the cattle will get into the hay bales.

Foraging Baby Steps

I’m not a wilderness food forager by any measure, but I’m making baby steps in that direction. This weekend I found a new-to-me mushroom, the shaggy mane, growing in a patch of well-rotted wood chips. There was also a small, dense puffball (growing rather later than most) nearby.

Puffball on the left, Shaggy Manes on the right

A few of the shaggy manes were overripe, so I had to trim off dark frills, but I didn’t pick any that had gone fully blackened. Rachel and I both preferred them over puffballs, but I’m not sure that they’d truly rate as any kind of culinary delicacy. So for now, my three edible mushrooms on the farm are: chanterelles in summer, puffballs in September, and Shaggy Manes in October.

The mushroom at the left edge of the frame is overripe, showing ink on the lower frills. Two days later it had ink all the way up to the top.

Philistine though the admission reveals me to be, none of these mushrooms do much for me. I don’t think anyone actually enjoys puffballs, but I know that some people gush over chanterelles. Perhaps the problem is in my palate; more likely the problem is in my cooking skill. I’ll still keep trying to enjoy them. I like the idea of liking these mushroom varieties.

TurFOMO Marketing

I’ve been receiving questions about Thanksgiving turkey orders, so here’s the broadcast message: Turkeys for Thanksgiving sales will be listed on Friday Nov 1st. Simple enough, right?

Marketing experts tell me I should make this into a launch event, with a steady email campaign to build up excitement, a frenzied, almost panicky tone to my communications, and lots of emphasis about scarcity and FOMO (“almost sold out”, “get yours before it disappears”, “last year we sold out in the first 72 hours”, etc). I should also offer secret coupon codes if anyone sends me an email address so I can pester them for years to come. And I should offer a free product with a large enough shipping charge to cover the price of the freebie.

I know I need to improve my marketing because farm sales have been limping along the last few months. But it is hard to come to terms with the conventional wisdom that reduces marketing to behavioristic manipulations. Marketing, both traditional and digital, seems to be built upon the same logic as conventional row-cropping and confinement livestock farming. Production volume is the ultimate arbiter of success, customers should be reduced to idealized widgets, and individual preferences and group diversity are ignored in favor of monocropping a preset product offering. Consumers get herded into narrow marketing funnels to create predictable outcomes for each one that passes through. I’d like to think there’s a better way to market the farm without feeling sleazy, but my past experience tells me that I’m prone to pursuing unachievable ideals.

So sign up now for my free newsletter where I’ll tell you the top 5 secrets to cooking a delicious Thanksgiving turkey, plus I’ll give you exclusive access to members-only content where top chefs share their turkey tips, plus I’ll send you my grandmother’s special stuffing recipe. But wait, there’s more. Sign up today and you’ll get early access to our turkey preorder event before we open it to the public. And be sure to use our 10% off coupon code.

Yeah, I can’t pull that off…

Wrong Season

By the old milkhouse we have a prolific crabapple. Every year a few of its buds bloom in the fall.

Each hapless flower is a defiance, no mild acceding to inevitable winter. We smile seeing in each one an impudent opening of hope. All good stories have a doomed protagonist.

Tomfoolery

We’ve been taking pictures of the tom turkeys as they’ve grown and become more photogenic (in their peculiar blue-faced, snoody, wattly, caruncly way), but we haven’t gotten around to posting them. So I’ll unload a bunch of turkey pictures all at once. Enjoy!